The first Sunday in February is an unofficial holiday. It’s also a target date for Michigan gambling expansion in the mind of one Michigan legislator.
The expansion will include online casino games and legal Michigan sports betting. According to one member of the state House, it’s good to go in the legislature but is being held up by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Michigan sports betting and casino games
Michigan Rep. Brandt Iden spoke about his bills in a recent Detroit News interview. His comments reveal his beliefs on the status of the bills.
Iden spun a narrative of flexibility on his part about the bills’ tenets. He said he wants the new laws in place by Super Bowl Sunday.
Iden says he’s willing to let all tax revenue from the gambling expansion go toward education if that will get Whitmer’s support.
“If the governor’s office wants to earmark it all to education, I’m 100% in support of that. If that’s all that’s gonna take to get it done, then great.”
Iden also stated he is open to negotiation on his tax rate for online casino games.
“I’m willing to come up on the number, and I continue to say that, but it cannot be at an unreasonable number.”
Iden asserted that all he, and other interested parties in the state, are waiting on is a green light from Whitmer.
“But I have the votes in both the House and the Senate to pass all the bills. What I don’t want to do is get another veto. So I am trying to continue the dialogue with the administration about finding an agreeable tax rate that everybody can live with to be able to bring this to a resolution. We can go very quickly once I get sign-off from the governor’s office.”
Iden’s comments read as if he is using the media to indirectly respond to earlier public comments by Whitmer.
It comes down to protecting the Michigan Lottery
Whitmer made her stance clear in a June NPR interview. Her concern primarily lies in the belief that online casino games and sports betting in Michigan will take action away from the Michigan Lottery.
Iden addressed that concern for the Detroit News as well by pointing out how well things are going in New Jersey.
“What they will find is that the lottery player is not a sports bettor, and a sports bettor is not a lottery player. And, if there is any crossover, people will do both.”
The hypothetical problem with the lottery losing traffic is that it could mean less money for the state’s School Aid Fund. That’s a point Whitmer is immutable on.
If Iden and the legislature are as flexible on the exact terms Whitmer has voiced concern about; however, then it’s peculiar that nothing is happening.
The only concern Whitmer has publicly voiced is the School Aid Fund losing dollars. And as mentioned earlier, Iden says he’s willing to let up to 100% of new tax revenue from gambling expansion go to the School Aid Fund.
If both of those things are true, then it would seem there is no issue. Yet, the Michigan House Ways and Means Committee hasn’t scheduled a vote on any of Iden’s bills.
The Senate committee on regulatory reform hasn’t scheduled a vote on the Senate versions, either. If Iden has the votes as he claims, and all he’s waiting for is a sign-off from Whitmer, then this is the opposite of going “very quickly” that he spoke of.
Gambling expansion debate obviously isn’t settled
That points to lack of communication between Iden and Whitmer, or there are other points of debate that neither has spoken about publicly or that Iden is using the media to put pressure on the governor.
Another comment from Iden points to the fact that there is still some distance between the governor and himself. He also puts the blame solely on Whitmer.
“It’s difficult to negotiate with a party who doesn’t quite understand everything that’s going on in the marketplace.”
Iden’s comments read as if he’s bending over backward and Whitmer is being obstinate. Iden wants gambling expansion by Super Bowl Sunday, but if his comments and the corresponding lack of activity are any indications, that may be too optimistic.